Is Running One of Your New Year’s Resolutions? Here’s a 5-Point Plan for Success

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

Tens of millions of people made resolutions this year, many of them centered around health and well-being. From eating better, strength training, to running a few times a week – New Year’s goals about getting in better shape are the most common.

But almost every person will fail to realize one (or more) of their goals. This doesn’t mean most people are lazy. Their approach is just wrong. It’s easy to “try real hard” to do something, but that’s just not enough. Creating a system that facilitates your goal is much easier.

Here’s something you don’t know about me: I don’t have cable TV. I realized I was watching too much television instead of spending time on things that mattered like writing, core exercises, reading books, spending time with my fiancee, and tying Houdini’s record for holding your breath (the importance of that talent is debatable).

What does that have to do with running? You can use the same process that I used to watch less TV to become a runner. Instead of just “trying hard” to not turn on the TV at night, I made a 10 minute phone call to Comcast and cancelled my subscription. Boom! No willpower needed.

I also experimented with putting a towel over the TV, which surprisingly made me watch less. These are simple one-time investments in willpower that continue to pay dividends.

Let’s use tactics that work to help you stick to your resolutions to run more, eat healthier, or get that new personal best. Use this 5-point plan to dominate your New Year’s resolutions, get long-term fitness results, and finally start running.

1) Forget willpower. Get a program.

It’s too difficult to achieve your goals if you don’t have a plan in place. If you’re hoping to race a 5k by this March or lose 20 pounds then that’s great. But make sure you know how you’re going to achieve these ambitious goals or you’ll fail.

Beginning runners can use the Couch to 5k program that will take you from not running at all to completing your first 5k race. Active also has a great forum you can use for support if you have any issues.

If your resolution this year is to get stronger, start lifting, or prevent more injuries in 2010 a program like the Rebel Fitness Guide can help you achieve your goals. With separate exercise workbooks and videos for every exercise, you’ll be able to stick to it.

Are you making your triathlon debut later this year? Get on the right track designing a training program that actually works. Learn more about the Competitive Triathlon in 10 Hours a Week program. Train smart, not long.

2) Make it public.

Tell your friends, family, and co-workers what you’re planning to accomplish. You will be held to your goals as they constantly ask you how you’re doing with your running, diet, or fitness program. It works!

I have already told my coworkers and friends what my goal is for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on April 3: 53:30. It’s very aggressive, but I’m going for it. I might fail, but I’m going to try my damnedest to run that fast. Now that other people know what I’m trying to do (wait, did I just make my 10 mile goal public with all of you?) it will be easier for me to stick with my training plan.

3) Put your money where your mouth is.

Want to bet? Get competitive and bet a friend that you’ll run four times a week. Use Stickk to make a “commitment contract” that will penalize you for not meeting your goal. All you need is the goal, the stakes, and a referee.

The psychology behind this simple tactic is astounding. Dramatically increase your chances of accomplishing your goals by putting your money where your mouth is. You’ll be surprised how hard it is to fail.

When I was a freshman in high school I ran a 5:44 mile at the beginning of indoor track. I bet my Dad that I’d break 5 minutes in the mile by the time I graduated high school. If I failed, I’d buy him a sound system for his car. Otherwise, I’d get a laptop. By my sophomore year, I ran 4:59.

4) Make it convenient.

Picture this scene: you come home from work and need to run. It’s 23 degrees outside and dinner is on the table and smells delicious. Are you going to change into your running clothes and head out the door for your run? Unlikely.

Don’t make it hard to succeed. The example I just used is from my own life (winter, 2007) when I skipped my run and watched TV all night. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Instead, get up earlier in the morning and run before work. It’s hard to skip a run when you don’t have other obligations for a few hours. Just make sure you get out of bed. You can also bring your running gear with you to work and run straight from the office. Unless a colleague is tempting you with warm soup and red wine in your office, you’ll have no problem going for your run.

Here’s another tip: if you don’t have a gym in your office building or within a 5 minute walk from your home, don’t sign up for a gym membership this year. Driving to a gym or otherwise going out of your way is inconvenient. It’s too difficult to “try hard” to go to the gym. Don’t expect yourself to suddenly have superhuman willpower.

5) Stick with it for 30 days.

This January, stick with your running goal for only one month. You can turn a new behavior into a habit by doing it 30 days in a row. You’ll have a hard time not running once February rolls around.

I did this myself with pre-run mobility exercises. I used to not do anything before I went running, and I paid the price: stiffness, frequent injuries, and poor workouts. Now I spend about 10 minutes doing a warm-up routine and I feel so much better.

My hope for 2011 is to get more people running long-term. If you run for three weeks and then stop, then I’ve failed.

Life is short. Be proactive about achieving your goals and reaching that new fitness level. You can succeed by implementing simple changes in your daily routine that make behavior change possible.

This article is part of an awesome New Year’s series. Check out the round-up for the other articles on Run Addicts:

How many of you will implement this 5-point plan and accomplish your resolutions? Every day is an opportunity to reinvent yourself into the person you want to be. Start a personal revolution today. How are you making your dreams come true?

Get Stronger & Run Healthy

Join our free course to help you better prevent injuries, develop runner-specific strength, and avoid the big mistakes that get runners hurt